I compared myself to everyone
and found myself
until I found
to share an orange
with you, right here,
amidst the noise of
our age. and time
and time again to
lean in and touch
your skin and see
her talk, and him
kick towards a world
that we can't control.
the sound of him working downstairs,
in our basement, out of which he re-
emerged, seeing the magic in our eyes:
wood toys, used but well waxed skiis,
advent reefs, bikes like new,
diningtable extensions so all
his grandkidsmight sit with him,
and other knick-knackinventions,
sometimes driving mom crazy,
but always garnering significant
approvalfrom us all, for this was
his true art form.
he could fix everything and he still does.
last Christmas I found myself getting
food from the pantry and suddenly
stopped, hearing the usual prayerful
meditation of my father fixing up the
world around him one flat tire at a time.
I listened to the noise of him working,
telling my heart to remember these
sounds, storing them up for the years
ahead, when all I will have is the music
of my father working. of my father loving.
she says hi to everyone,
and if they don't respond,
she says it again until they
they acknowledge her hello.
there is of course the occasional
adult who can't be bothered by
by a toddler's effort to engage.
she doesn't care much, yet,
and says bye in equal measure
to those who engage and those
may I become like her,
may I become like a toddler.
of course the washed up body of a 3 yr old boy
will make you stop and reconsider public policy.
there is no such thing as compassion fatigue
only the calculating unwillingness to consider
someone else’s story as real as your own,
unfolding during bath time this evening.
while you washed your child clean and
brushed her teeth, another dad, unable
to keep two kids afloat, let go of one
and then another, watching the vast
hope of home and rescue and raising
a glass on their wedding day, disappear.
she came, as expected, head first into
the harshest winter we had seen.
her mother carried her these last weeks
below freezing, belly bulging, against the cold,
while our little furnace kept us warm at night
kicking towards spring at 136 beats per minute.
she came, as expected, with a full head of hair,
the heritage of nations wet and clinging, (as if
their lives depended on it), all curled into one:
Austrians and Mexicans, English and French,
Americans and Russians, and those native to
this country of her birth—all left their mark.
now I see that that peace between nations
will only come to us as a child, (then as now)
the weight of time witnessing her first cry,
(unsure where to turn, but willing to learn)
intuiting her way towards a mother’s heart,
followed by sleep reconciliatory and kind.
the sound of her name, forty long weeks,
tuned words to song, tossing variations
on a theme to each other, playing by ear,
(not forgetting the Austrian Aussprache).
the book says Annie means Prayer,
and Evelyn is one who brings Life,
together she mends our broken circle.
may she bring life to those on the margins,
who are sick with fear, rejoice with all who
walk the fringe for whom none else do cheer.
for those who will not, cannot, and have
forgot to pray, may she remind us that
that there is longing enough in every
human heart and words beyond our grasp,
but that if He who is every creature’s friend
will feed the sparrow, we might find
ourselves again anew, at the break of day.
gather up your stones
and see them float
fire flies rise again
and light the way
my brother's crown
into the valley
this year again
for the first time
I find myself.
there might be a parallel dimension,
quantum physics tell us, right here,
beyond the coffee and the NYtimes,
the way ants crawling on the table
may not be aware of ants crawling
on the floor. I wonder why I have
lost all sense of wonder of how sound
waves work, invisible, hard to grasp,
yet even my daughter knows how to
turn her head in the direction of the
Bach Sonata, and begins to nod.
in the final analysis,
it may not be simply
naked ambition that drives
us unto the breach again,
Or if ambition, it is fueled
by the desire to join a conversation,
one that started before we got here,
and one that will continue long after.
Ambition drives us into battle
but we happen upon the table,
and someone asks us about our
day or life,
and what do we make of it?
I saw mother and daughter descending
the stairs to the train amidst the hustle
of the new year, holding hands gently,
slowing us all down, inconveniently slow.
the girl (no more than 3) had trisomy 21,
and I wondered how it was apparent to me,
being a hundred feet away, catching a glimpse
of an extra chromosome. oh holy chromosome.
a commitment to the steps ahead, the girl
focused on the ground beneath her feet,
making it difficult for me to see her eyes as I
approached them, looking for a glance.
her mother's eyes found mine instead and
she smiled as I passed them on the stairs,
while tears sprung to my eyes unbidden,
traveling onward with a blessing in my pocket.
It's a hell of a thing
to close up shop
alone in this weather,
knowing what we know now
about death, turkeys and bullets.
The man ahead of me is all
but obfuscated by rain that
is hard shooting into snow.
There is no shelter here on
this walk to the train. none.
Weeks until real snow falls,
and someone's blood will
mark the spot.
Where is the relativist now,
where the mayflower’s last
plank, and Broadway’s trail
of tear’s long diagonal divide?
Learning the piano at age 4
a child is fully able to
distinguish between black
& white, the high and low.
It was years before I was told:
The hippopotamus and walrus,
the narwhal and the mammoth
lost their sons to hunter’s sport,
now subjugated to my fingertips.
If you don’t swear to protect the
narwhal as you sit & feast today,
do not praise or pray at all.
And when the time comes to play
Silent Night, be silent first for years.
Remember mothers whose sons are
born to be lost.
And if after this, you have strength
and sound mind, give away all you
have, move into the poorest project
and after this, if words come, pray.
of course it’s nonsense to believe,
or know head from tails and spin
days into years and find your life
at the water well after hours.
I sold my heart for a cup of coffee,
came home to find a bird outside
on the fire escape, above the sign:
‘$10 fine if found, unless during
my friend who is lovelier than I,
sends me out on a daily voyage,
a prayer in my pocket. I bring
home bacon, cheese and bread
for a child who looks like me.
like fathers before me, I make
the sign of the cross—thrice—
on a head only 8 months old,
as an insurance policy for her
in case the story is true.
a grown man tosses himself
back into the crib. stars shine
In Buffalo, upstate New York,
three guys from the shelter
are running their asses off,
half drunk, through 40 tons
of snow, just to tell the folks
stuck on the high-way about
some holy nonsense.
driving towards my daughter
and the mother of my child
across a state that is not my home,
on a two-lane highway that
serves both the fast and slow.
a doted line divides us all
my heart, my dear, my heart
is full, so full of that which
must not be left behind.
to form this feeling and raise it well,
until it speaks and learns to grow,
though eyes burnt shut by soot and sun:
‘oh man of contingency, changes come,
i must not forget—not now, not here—
the weight and names these signs
man by man this road was paved,
with lone star on his breath; each
man drove home to lover, wife or child,
a paycheck closer to corpus christi,
passing the kings ranch herd of cattle,
and on the meadow—just ahead—a
one-week-old white mare.
when I feel sad,
when sadness comes,
and the promise is broken,
and the charlatan is king,
a scepter made of tomorrow's headlines;
do I turn to you?
Unless he builds the house
we will continue transience
into the thicket of tiny homes.
a poor man's metaphor
is all that's left at the end.
strangers in a strange land:
to burn and twist a word into being
that will withstand the grind of time
(or at least endure this conversation)
inventing nothing, denying nothing,
bearing only the height and weight it ought,
as younger sounds listen and slowly
grow into being.
took a mid morning nap alone
awoke a new man in old skin,
plucked my first grey hair from
my chest; thought of you and
her, all but 5 weeks old, smiling.
if to listen and to learn,
to walk and stagger into being,
and wrestle a friend into the ground.
to hold and burp a baby,
and clean a diaper rash,
to wake up angry and foresworn
and watch someone rise.
to miss a country and a half,
to eat beyond one's pleasure
and turn one's self in to Love's
wild gaze beyond the hills.
to struggle with words, not
see eye to eye, to let them go,
or only use the simple ones
such as: bread, you, and more.
to find another word for
longing, Sehnsucht, jazz
to admit this helpless
need for others and their
games and roaring cheer.
to watch a baby sleep
and know that death is
just around the corner.
to be a fool, a fool, a fool
and yet to write with
courage and a laugh.
to thank God for whiskey
and for pain, for struggle
and for the sound of rain
that plays for 45 minutes
as she falls asleep between
us two. who knew?
I miss Philip Seymour Hoffman,
in ways I have never missed a
I want to be like him, the way
a child wants to be an astronaut.
I see him appear in the movies
with others who are still here.
I love Philip Seymour Hoffman,
in ways I have only loved my
Land der Berge,
Land am Strome,
Land der Äcker,
Land der Dome.
This longing for
all the hope I
had in future years,
brings me back
to run along the
Ache of my youth.
The quartet will
play on the 24th
from the mountain,
the year, but if only
for the same longing
they fill up here, this
night, midnight, bright,
full hearts searching,
the candle lit faces
of their neighbors,
until silent night is
played on the guitar
and all goes still
there is meaning
here in this our
little town of Salzburg.